My three-year-old son and I listen to the same ten songs on the way to school every single day. He knows all the words. So do I. I even find myself singing along when he isn’t around.
The catchy tunes form part of the curriculum taught by The Bright Minds Institute, a unique Dubai-based company that runs classes for children aged six-months to six-years.
The 50-minute sessions are not only fun and interactive, incorporating music, sensory development and games, but also specifically designed to work on ‘whole’ brain-training. No, I didn’t get what that meant either.
Founder of Bright Minds, Tamam Barhoush Tabari, explains in layman terms: ‘In essence, the right brain is said to be responsible for creativity, confidence and intuition while the left side is in charge of logic and problem-solving.
‘The majority of people start becoming left-side dominant from around the age of six and most academic systems also promote “left” learning skills such as numeracy, literacy and science.’
Whole brain training is unique in that it works on activating the right side of the brain and helps children utilise it for longer, developing their intuition, improving attention span and memory.
The 38-year-old former corporate lawyer, who has a passion for education and learning, was running the class circuit in Dubai with her son Marwan when she discovered the distinctive style of teaching. She was devastated when she found out the lessons were being shut down.
‘I started taking Marwan to whole brain-training around four or five times a week from the age of seven-months. Not only did I notice he was hitting milestones earlier than other children, but his classmates were too. They were more communicative, focused and knew their colours.
‘I was so disappointed to hear they were not going to carry on as the venue was closing so together with the teacher, we worked on starting afresh somewhere new.’
But keeping the class alive was not the only motivating factor behind Tamam’s decision to start Bright Minds. While on maternity leave, she found the transition from her fast-paced job as a corporate lawyer to stay-at-home mother a challenge, which led her to seek an outlet.
‘I was used to working until 10pm every night at a law firm and felt somewhat disconnected from the world around me after giving birth and dealing with a colicky baby. I didn’t want to spend all day at home and so I became an expert in baby classes. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was doing market research!’
The company’s organic growth has now allowed Tamam to perform the ultimate balancing act – juggling work with looking after her two children, Marwan, three, and Kaiya, one-and-a-half. She admits the perils of running her own business are that she can never fully switch off but also recognises a desk job does not allow her the same flexibility.
‘It’s all about balance’, she maintains, ’If I’ve been out of the house for hours taking meetings, like today, tomorrow I will make sure I am with the kids all day. Now I am as available as I can be to my family but still engaged and my mind is working in a different way.’
I ask her if the classes have helped shaped her view of motherhood or children’s education.
‘Previously,’ she tells me, ‘I underestimated how much children can learn. They learn while they are having fun. They are sponges and absorb so much.
‘So, silly things at home like we aren’t just eating chicken, we are discussing where it came from, what spices we use, how we cook. The classes have helped me become aware of how capable even young children are. My kids are my guinea pigs and I often incorporate their interests into the classes, seeing the world through their eyes.’
And what advice does she have for other mothers who want to start their own business?
She doesn’t hesitate: ‘Just do it. Bright Minds started as a small project and ended up a business. Initially, my original plans before this were too daunting but this project was a natural progression and that made it much easier to take it slowly.
‘So just start, you might be surprised that it turns out bigger than you thought. It’s also essential to have personal fulfilment, to think creatively but also help people. For me, it isn’t just about a job or a paycheck.’
It seems, for Tamam, the risk has certainly paid off. The Bright Minds Institute now holds daily classes across five different locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with plans to expand. From September, they will be introducing new cooking, art, music and a pre-nursery class.
I, for one, am a strong advocate. My son was enrolled last year and has positively benefitted. Not only does he love the class, but he knows the days of the week, his alphabet, the four seasons and can literally ‘turn on’ his creativity at the flick of an imaginary switch. I also cannot wait to listen to the new CD next year. I mean, my son can’t.
For more information and class schedules, visit www.thebrightmindsinstitute.com